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— Legal Talk Network (@LegalTalkNet) March 17, 2017
It wasn’t just the technology that was groundbreaking at this year’s TECHSHOW. For the first time in the conference’s history there were more women speakers than men.
The legal industry is notoriously dominated by men, but women powerhouses are becoming more and more common. In this report from TECHSHOW Today, hosts Dennis Kennedy and Steve Best talk to a large panel of legal technology experts (who also happen to be women), including Brooke Moore, Nicole Bradick, Heidi Alexander, Kristen Sonday, and ABA President Linda Klein. While growing diversity and its barriers are the main topic of discussion, the ladies also talk about the technology they’re using and the future of legal tech.
Diversity in the Legal Industry
The conversation kicks off with mention of an article Heidi wrote about influential women in the legal technology industry, an article that Dennis claims, “changed the world.” She says, “A few years ago I wrote up a blog post for Law Technology Today and I listed about 40 women that I felt were innovators and leaders in legal technology and the reason I did that was I wanted to celebrate these women and I also wanted to promote other women in legal technology.”
Heidi’s article established that there are women innovators out there in hopes that other aspiring women would feel encouraged to pursue their own legal careers. For Nicole, seeing women holding these positions, or “achieving the unattainable,” inspired her personally and the women currently involved with TECHSHOW, whether speakers or faculty, can do the same for other women like her. She says, “I think that’s the value of having this high level of women speakers, that you’re offering yourself as an expert to people who might want to see somebody who they can use as a mentor.”
Making Technology Work for You
Brooke never considered herself to be super technologically minded, but she saw the needs of rural towns in her state and had the idea to use online services to get them legal aid.
She says, “I needed to find a way to to be able to help these people where legal services are both affordable and also accessable.”
Kristen saw similar needs and created a pro bono platform that aggregates lawyers looking for pro bono opportunities with legal aid organizations, meaning lawyers can find cases that match their interests and skill sets. This company, Palladin, also uses data to track success, case progress, and outcomes in order to improve its processes. “We started brainstorming about ways we could apply this technology to scale access to justice in a smart and streamlined way.” Kristen says. She also states that the use of technology in the legal industry will only continue to grow. “I really see this tech boom in legal tech as an opportunity to streamline processes across the board and really enhance the work that everyone is doing.”
Linda agrees, saying, “When we first started appreciating what technology could do we were looking at it as a way to level the playing field between lawyers and small firms and lawyers and large firms. As technology has developed, become cheaper, become easier to use, become more comprehensive, now we see it as a way to be able to make the pie bigger, to expand services to more and more people and that’s what’s so exciting about it.”
The Future of Legal Tech
According to Nicole, technology will help with one of the industry’s biggest issues, which is access to justice. She says, “The more we can automate the things lawyers do that are automatable, and then bring that out to the masses at scale, the more they can access the services that were once unattainable.”
Brooke agrees and expands on the idea. “Education is a huge component. A lot of times, people don’t realize that they have other options,” she says. “As consumers are more educated on their options, you’re going to see more consumers seeking that out.”
Heidi, who thinks more in terms of the lawyers themselves, considers the actual implementation of new technology. “A lot of the technology is there, but then the question is how can it be implemented properly,” she says. “I think we’re going to see a little bit more in terms of thinking strategically about how you build these systems the right way and how you can implement them in your own practice.”
— Legal Talk Network (@LegalTalkNet) March 17, 2017
The Community of Legal Tech Women
Because there are fewer women than men in the legal industry, the ladies have found banding together and supporting each other has helped with their success. “To make this system work we all need to be helping each other and I think it’s very much happening,” Nicole says.
They discuss the importance of having mentors and how women can go about building such a community. According to Linda, one of the ways to do this is by joining the ABA. “Being involved in the American Bar Association is a great way to become part of the network and a great way to have mentors,” she says.
The panelists all agree that the education aspect of a community, sharing experiences with each other, is key to successfully implementing diversity. For women aspiring to get involved in the legal tech industry, mentors are also vital.
“The role model piece is so important and we do have a responsibility to give it back to the next generation,” Kristen says.
Community also produces collaboration, which is essential to innovation. According to Brooke, “Collaboration is really important and I think that’s going to be one way we can grow together and get out there.”
Barriers to Entry for Women in Legaltech
When asked about whether barriers still exist for women desiring to enter the profession, Brooke answers, “There could be but I just don’t care.”
She continues, “I think you can limit yourself. I’m not super tech savy but I had an idea. There are other people that you can collaborate with and other services available.”
Linda acknowledges the challenges women face, saying, “There’s no question that women continue to face significant headwinds in attaining equality in the legal profession.”
One of the biggest challenges, according to Nicole, is being a mother. She says, “I think the real challenge is less with being a woman and more with being a mother, and that has its own set of unique challenges.”
But the fact that these women are sitting at this table proves that these barriers are not impossible to overcome. Kristen observes, “There are so many incredible women doing awesome things and I’d much rather highlight that, and our developments, and our future in the industry which is really bright.”
Advice for Aspiring Women
To conclude the show, the ladies share advice for women who also want to rule the legal tech world.
Brooke: “Don’t let yourself set your own limits.”
Nicole: “Find a problem and become obsessed with the solution.”
Heidi: “Seek out mentors, get out there and meet people.”
Kristen: “Get out of your building and start making it happen.”
Linda: “Develop your own style, join the ABA, and there’s no substitute for hard work or being a part of a team.”
To hear more sage wisdom from this stellar group of women, watch the full video below.
Legal Talk Network is a podcast network for legal professionals with hosts from well-known organizations and brands in legal. Over 20 active podcasts cover important legal news and developments, including access to justice, law school, industry events, legal technology, and the future of law.